Capitol Updates

Friday, April 22, 2022

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  • 2022 Legislative Session Sine Die Report  
  • Register and Vote in Nebraska’s Primary Election on May 10, 2022  
  • Review of Education Related Priority Bills  

2022 Legislative Session Sine Die Report 

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned on Wednesday, April 20, the last day of this year’s 60-day session. Last week, 101 bills were submitted to the Governor for his approval. None were vetoed by the Governor, and most will become new laws in 90 days unless enacted sooner. This session, senators introduced 593 new proposed bills and 9 proposed constitutional amendments. Your NSEA Government Relations team tracked more than 80 education and school finance related legislative proposals. 

The final day of this session had term-limited senators and those choosing not to run for re-election giving their final addresses to the body. The following state senators will not be returning in 2023: Curt Friesen, Tim Gragert, Matt Hansen, Robert Hilkemann, Dan Hughes, Mark Kolterman, Steve Lathrop, Brett Lindstrom, John McCollister, Adam Morfeld, Patty Pansing Brooks, John Stinner, and Matt Williams. All are term limited except for Gragert and Lathrop who did not file for this year’s election. 

State Aid to Education and the State Budget 

The mid-biennium budget bill, LB1012, passed and was signed by the Governor. A combination of factors – including revenues continuing to come in above projections – led to a $775 million increase in funds available for the current biennium. $349 million of that was used to fund: salary increases for state employees, including 20% raises for high-demand positions; 30% raises for some health care professionals; 2% increases for other state employees; increased provider rates for some DHHS and Corrections services providers; and the STARWARS lake proposal. The budget leaves the cash reserve balance at $1.3 billion. 

While the budget fully funds K-12 education – the largest item in the state budget – in accordance with the state’s current school finance formula, K-12 funding decreased slightly in FY 2021-22 compared to the prior year. The budget shows that K-12 funding growth is projected to grow slowly in the next two fiscal years, 2.3% in FY 2022-23 and 1.3% in FY 2023-24. This low funding growth is being caused in part by rising property valuations, which, under the K-12 formula, reduces the amount of aid schools receive.

Largest Income Tax Cut in the State’s History 

Nebraska will lose $900 million in state tax revenues under LB873, a bill signed by the Governor last week. The law reduces the top corporate and individual income tax rates to 5.84% by 2027. The top corporate rate is currently 7.5% and the top individual rate is 6.84%. It also eliminates the state tax on social security income, creates a new tax credit for property taxes paid to community colleges, and increases the amount available for the existing credit for school property taxes paid to $567 million for 2023. We are concerned that in coming years, when state revenues inevitably decline, the legislature will be faced with making severe cuts to education state aid due to the extent of the income tax cuts. 

One proposal amended into the tax cut bill was LB825, introduced by Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom at the request of the NSEA-Retired and the NSEA. It will accelerate the phase out of state tax collected on Social Security benefits over the next five years. Social Security and pension income are intended to keep our elderly and disabled citizens out of poverty. Our public school employees rely on their Social Security benefits to make ends meet during their retirement years. 

Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Alternative to Praxis Core Bill 

LB1218 is a new education workforce development law. It is a comprehensive package making changes to student loan forgiveness, certification, and education program entrance exams. 

  • It provides $1,000 in loan forgiveness to student teachers under the Attracting Excellence to Teaching Program. An individual must provide service for a full academic semester within a public or private school and meet certain requirements to qualify.  

  • The new law contains provisions of LB945, which authorizes the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) to provide qualifying teachers $5,000 per year in loan repayment assistance for up to five years. To qualify, an individual must be a Nebraska resident teaching full time at a public or private school or performing dual-credit instructional duties for public or private school students while employed full time at a public or private nonprofit college or university in Nebraska. Applications for student loan repayment assistance must be submitted no later than June 10, 2023. NDE will establish rules and regulations prior to that date outlining the application process. The NSEA will update our members as information regarding the application process is developed. This loan program will be first come, first serve and available to 1,000 teachers statewide.  

  • It allows a teacher from another state to demonstrate eligibility for a Nebraska teaching certificate or permit if they possess a similar certificate or permit in that state. Going forward, the State Board must authorize the issuance of a permit or certificate to an applicant who has been offered employment to teach, administer or provide special services by public and private schools in Nebraska. 

  • Finally, the bill clarifies the State Board of Education’s authority to approve teacher education programs in Nebraska. It specifically provides, “that such approval (of a teacher education program by the Board) shall not require a statewide examination as an entrance requirement related to basic skills competency….” Currently, postsecondary institutions are using the Praxis Core examination as an entrance requirement to their education programs. The new law prevents the State Board from making the examination an entrance requirement, although colleges may choose to continue to use the Praxis Core in that capacity. There is language permitting an alternative college admission examination, such as the ACT, to demonstrate basic skills competency. The State Board would have to make a rule change to designate the ACT rather than the Praxis Core Exam for this to take effect. 

Behavioral Health Points of Contact and Mental Health First Aid Training 

LB852, signed into law requires identification of “behavioral health points of contact” in each school building with access to community providers. In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of children and youth being diagnosed with mental health conditions. The COVID-19 Pandemic has exacerbated the concern. The change in law is a commonsense step to ensure access to behavioral health services in communities by identifying points of contacts in each school building who have access to current listings of community behavior providers located in their geographic area and make that information available to parents and students for any needed services. 

In addition, the new law contains language from LB912, providing mental health first aid training to school personnel. It requires NDE to create a mental health first aid training program for teachers and other personnel employed by a school district or ESU. Training will be by trainers who are properly certified by a national organization for behavioral health and shall include training on skills needed to assist a student in crisis, including knowledge of available resources for referrals; de-escalation skills; recognizing signs and symptoms of mental illness; and making timely referrals for students needing treatment. 

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) 

LB1014 allocates $1.04 billion of federal funding available from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). One provision supported by the Governor that was not included in the final bill – thanks to numerous phone calls made and emails sent by NSEA members – was a proposal that would have appropriated a total of $60 million in one-time ARPA funds to fund private school vouchers. The defeated plan would have established a pilot “Education Recovery Accounts” program to provide up to $2,000 for eligible K-12 students to offset the cost of tuition at private and parochial schools. It would have been fiscally irresponsible to use these one-time COVID emergency dollars to fund private school tuition vouchers.  

Sen. Carol Blood filed AM2543 to LB1014 on behalf of the NSEA. The amendment would have provided $20M for certificated public school employees (not including school administrators) to receive much needed employee retention payments averaging about $830 per eligible recipient. The amendment failed to gain the necessary 25 votes to become part of the ARPA funding bill. Here is the final vote count on the amendment: Click here. Opponents to the proposal claimed public school districts had already received over $1 billion in COVID relief and providing an additional $20M was unnecessary. We disagree with their viewpoint and will continue to push for school employee retention payments moving forward in 2023. 

Parental Involvement and Transparency Bill Stalls on General File 

One proposal that did not advance this year was LB1158, an update to the Parental Involvement Act, originally enacted in 1994. The proposal would have required each school district to make all district and school policies available on the school’s public website for each building in the district with a prominently displayed link. It also would have added a new section to the act stating, "to the extent practicable, each public school district shall make a reasonable effort to make any learning materials, including original materials, available for public inspection upon request." Impracticable requests for learning materials would not be permitted under the act. NSEA had concerns that if the bill became law, it may have increased workloads for teachers in certain school districts. 

Classroom Censorship Bill Fails to Advance Out of Committee 

State legislatures across the country have been considering a spate of bills seeking to ban or narrowly restrict antiracist and antisexist education. LB1077 is one such bill that failed to advance from committee. The bill sought to narrowly restrict how public postsecondary institutions and public K-12 schools in Nebraska teach a range of topics, including analysis of the centrality of racism and sexism to U.S. institutions. LB1077 was a censorship bill. NSEA supports open discussion and debate in our classrooms. The consideration of such topics are crucial to understanding the past, present, and future challenges we face as a nation and as citizens of our world. 

Public Dollars for Private Schools Bills Defeated 

Last year, LB364 was filibustered and failed to advance from General File. Sen Linehan re-prioritized the bill this year and, thanks to the work of NSEA members and supportive senators, it suffered a similar fate and was filibustered. The bill would have annually diverted up to $10 million in public tax dollars to fund private K-12 schools. It would have created a so-called “Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit,” a dollar-for-dollar tax benefit for corporations and individuals that donate to organizations that provide private school scholarships. The scholarship tax credit would have been significantly more generous than any other tax credit, including those for other charitable donations. 

LB364 was defeated on Jan. 12, 2022 – very early in the session. A similar private school tax scheme proposal was then introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer in the form of LB1237. This iteration would have allowed a non-refundable tax credit equal to 50% the amount the taxpayer contributed to a scholarship-granting organization. The clear intent of both efforts was to grow the amount of public tax dollars spent on private schools. Scholarship tax credits have proven to be a costly mistake in state after state. These tax schemes give wealthy individuals and corporations a tax credit while shifting the cost of funding public education to middle and lower-income taxpayers.  

No to Lids on Kids: School Revenue Cap Bill Fails to Advance 

The school revenue cap bill, LB986 failed to advance during extended debate. It would have limited school district revenue growth, regardless of enrollment growth or other educational needs. While the bill contains potential cap override mechanisms, most of them cover unlikely scenarios to ever trigger their implementation. A large majority of school districts would be subjected to a provision in the bill limiting property tax growth to 2.5% or less over the previous year’s tax request. Large districts with high needs would have likely seen significant revenue losses under this cap.

Vote in Nebraska’s Primary Election on May 10, 2022 

Passing beneficial education and school financing laws – and stopping bad ones – starts at the ballot box by electing state senators and a governor who support public education! Here are a few helpful links as you prepare for Nebraska’s Primary Election. 

Register to vote or change information / party registration: Voter Registration  
To vote at your polling place on election day May 10, 2022, the completed application must be submitted by April 22, 2022.  

Request an Early Voting/Vote by Mail ballot: Vote-by-Mail Ballot Request 
You can submit your completed early voting application by U.S. Mail, by fax or you can scan/take a picture of your application and email it to your county election office. Applications for a Primary Election ballot must be received by 6 p.m., April 29, 2022. 

NSEA Recommended Candidate information at: NSEA Recommended Candidates 
More information on Vote by Mail/Early Voting: Early/Vote-by-Mail Information 

Review of Education Related Priority Bills

Approved by Governor 

LB700 (Kolterman) Change provisions relating to public retirement systems 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB754 (Bostar) Extend the commercial air filter pilot program of the State Department of Education 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB758 (Brandt) Change provisions relating to the Nebraska Farm-to-School Program Act 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB792 (Lowe) Appropriate funds for the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center-Kearney 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB852 (Day) Require behavioral health points of contact for school districts 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB873 (Friesen) Change provisions relating to the levy authority for community college areas 
NSEA Position: Oppose (includes LB723, LB825, LB939) 

LB887 (Slama) Change provisions relating to state colleges and eliminate certain provisions 
NSEA Position: Neutral 

LB888 (Day) Redefine multicultural education for school districts 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB902 (Aguilar) Adopt the Nebraska Career Scholarship Act 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB1014 (Speaker) Appropriate Federal Funds allocated to the State of Nebraska pursuant to ARPA 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB1057 (Brewer) Change provisions relating to Class III school districts 
NSEA Position: Neutral 

LB1112 (McKinney) Adopt the Computer Science and Technology Act 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB1144 (Friesen) Change Telecommunications Regulation Act and Broadband Bridge Act 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB1218 (Educ) Change provisions to certification of school employees and student loan forgiveness 
NSEA Position: Support 

Failed to Advance 

LB121 (Hunt) Change eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB364 (Linehan) Adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act and provide tax credits 
NSEA Position: Oppose 

LB723 (Briese) Change calculation of tax credits under the Nebraska Property Tax Incentive Act 
NSEA Position: Neutral (amended into LB873) 

LB730 (Lindstrom) Adopt the Growing Our Workforce Investment Now Act and provide tax credits 
NSEA Position: Oppose 

LB872 (Brewer) Authorize the wearing of tribal regalia by certain students 
NSEA Position: Support 

LB825 (Lindstrom) Change provisions on taxation of benefits for the federal Social Security Act 
NSEA Position: Support (amended into LB873) 

LB890 (Walz) Change the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act 
NSEA Position: Neutral 

LB919 (Lindstrom) Change corporate and individual income tax rates 
NSEA Position: Oppose 

LB939 (Linehan) Change corporate and individual income tax rates 
NSEA Position: Oppose (amended into LB873) 

LB986 (Briese) Adopt the School District Property Tax Limitation Act 
NSEA Position: Oppose 

LB1158 (Sanders) Change provisions relating to parental involvement in and access to learning materials 
NSEA Position: Neutral with concerns 

LB1213 (Albrecht) Provide requirements regarding access to online resources provided by schools 
NSEA Position: Neutral 

LR263CA (Blood) Constitutional amendment to require Legislature to reimburse political subdivisions 
NSEA Position: Support